If you have ever been involved in a child custody dispute, you likely know firsthand how challenging these cases can be. The stakes couldn’t be higher, as the heart of the matter involves your ability to spend time with your children. While the goal of every child custody case should be the parents (or other parties) working together for the best interests of their children, it isn’t surprising that in some cases, the parents are simply unable to agree on the most basic things.
In these situations, a court may order parenting coordination. This involves appointing a specially trained neutral third party (a parenting coordinator) to help parents resolve disputes. Parenting coordination is often ordered in cases where there is a high level of conflict, or where the parties or children have particular needs.
If you are involved in a family law matter that involves children, a Cleveland attorney can work with you to help you resolve the case favorably. By analyzing the facts of your case against Ohio law, your lawyer can propose solutions that protect your rights — and are in the best interests of your kid(s).
What Is Parenting Coordination?
In 2014, the Ohio Supreme Court adopted rules for parenting coordination. This relatively new practice in family law allows a neutral third party — the parenting coordinator — to assist parties who are engaged in a child custody dispute. The parenting coordinator helps parties with issues that may arise and makes sure that the terms of their parenting plan or companionship time orders are followed.
According to the Superintendence of Courts Rule 90(C), parenting coordination is “…a child-focused dispute resolution process…to assist parties in implementing parental rights and responsibilities or companionship time order using assessment, education, case management, conflict management, coaching, or decision-making.” While the parties involved in a legal dispute over custody or companionship time are often the child(ren)’s parents, the term “parties” can include other individuals, such as grandparents. A parenting coordinator is ordered by a court in cases where this service is necessary.
Parenting coordination is not mediation, but it is a form of alternative dispute resolution. In other words, using a parenting coordinator can help to resolve problems without the parties going to court. When the parties can’t agree on an issue, a parenting coordinator may “break the tie” and be the final decision-maker, which can help the parties avoid expensive, stressful, and time-consuming trips to court.
The goal of parenting coordination is to reduce hostility between parties and to settle disputes so that the impact of these disputes on the kid(s) is minimized. Legal battles can be particularly hard on children, especially when their parents are angry about what is happening. With a parenting coordinator, problems can be handled more efficiently and with less stress and pressure on the child(ren).
Parenting coordinators cannot make certain decisions in custody and companionship time cases. Specifically, a parenting coordinator cannot decide:
- Whether to grant, modify, or terminate a protection order;
- The terms and conditions of a protection order;
- The penalty for violation of a protection order;
- Changes in the designation of the primary residential parent or legal guardian;
- Changes in the primary placement of a child.
Instead, the parenting coordinator’s role is to assist in implementing parental rights and responsibilities or companionship time order.
When parenting coordination is ordered, the parties are required to meet with the parenting coordinator within 30 days of the appointment order. From there, the parties must meet at sessions that are set up by the coordinator. Importantly, communications at these sessions and with the parent coordinator are not confidential.
Who Can Be a Parenting Coordinator?
Parenting coordinators are highly qualified professionals who serve as agents of the court. In some cases, the coordinator is required to report back to the court about the case. To become a parenting coordinator, an individual must meet the following criteria:
- A master’s degree or higher, law degree, or education and experience satisfactory to the court or division;
- A minimum of two years of professional experience in situations involving children (parenting coordination, counseling, casework, legal representation in family law matters, serving as a guardian ad litem or mediator, or similar experience satisfactory to the court or division); and
- Completed of at least:
- 12 hours of mediation training;
- 40 hours of specialized family or divorce mediation training;
- 14 hours of specialized training in domestic abuse and mediation; and
- 12 hours of specialized training in parenting coordination.
Parenting coordinators must also complete at least three hours of continuing education courses each year. In cases that involve abuse, neglect, or dependency, the coordinator must meet additional qualifications, including specialized child protection mediation training. These requirements, set forth by the Ohio Supreme Court, ensure that a person serving in this role can effectively assist the parties as they navigate custody and parenting issues.
In most cases, both parties share the cost of a parenting coordinator. The cost of a coordinator is $250.00 per hour in Cuyahoga County unless otherwise agreed. However, the court has the discretion to order that one party pay for a great part or all of the parenting coordination services. This decision is usually based on the income and assets of each party.
When Is Parenting Coordination Recommended?
Parenting coordination is typically used in cases that involve a high level of conflict. Importantly, the definition of parenting coordination does not include the term “high conflict.” This was done purposefully, as there is no uniform definition of “high conflict,” the label “high conflict” may be viewed negatively, and to allow judges more discretion in ordering parenting coordination.
Parenting coordination may be ordered in cases where there are many disagreements between the parties about child custody, companionship time (visitation), and other issues. In addition, a court may order parenting coordination when:
- There is a history of extreme or ongoing parental conflict that has been unresolved by previous litigation or other interventions and from which a child of the parties is adversely affected;
- The parties have a child whose parenting time schedule requires frequent adjustments, specified in an order of the court or division, to maintain age-appropriate contact with both parties, and the parties have been previously unable to reach agreements on their parenting time schedule without intervention by the court or division;
- The parties have a child with a medical or psychological condition or disability that requires frequent decisions regarding treatment or frequent adjustments in the parenting time schedule, specified in an order of the court or division, and the parties have been previously unable to reach agreements on their parenting time schedule without intervention by the court or division;
- One or both parties suffer from a medical or psychological condition or disability that results in an inability to reach agreements on or make adjustments in their parenting time schedule without assistance, even when minor in nature;
- Any other factor as determined by the court or division.
Under Rule 90.04, courts should proceed with caution before ordering parenting coordination in cases that involve domestic violence. It may still be a possibility, but only if the alleged victim is fully informed about the process, and is given the option of having a support person present at sessions. Safety measures must be put in place so that the victim and others involved are protected. In addition, the coordinator should have the authority to end a session if abuse, threats, or coercion become an issue.
Contentious Custody Case? We Can Help.
Family law disputes involving children can be particularly challenging. Emotions often run high, as each party involved may be reluctant to give up even an hour of time with their children. Parenting coordination may be a way for the parties to settle disagreements without the time and expense of taking each issue to court.
At Laubacher & Co., our firm motto is “protecting you and your children’s future.” We are dedicated to advocating for our clients in Ohio family law matters, keeping the best interests of the children at the forefront of our minds. Contact us today at (440) 336-8687 or email us at any time for a free consultation with a Cleveland attorney.